bin collection

Is this the worst political leaflet ever, from Westborough Tories?

Westborough InTouch Nov 2015 small

Well it’s either the worst or the best, I can’t decide which.

“Dazzling” Daryl Peagram was the Tory candidate for Westborough in May, and regular readers may recall that he had a penchant for producing particularly bizarre election literature which more closely resembled dispatches from a post-apocalyptic alternate reality.

Fortunately (Umm -Ed) for residents and local political anoraks, Dazzling Daryl is the Conservative candidate for Westborough again in 2016, and his leaflets are unchanged in their absurdity.

Read on…

Tory Ex-Mayor Brands Wokingham Bin Scheme “a shambles”

Former Tory mayor of Wokingham Without parish council has branded the borough's new bin collection scheme "a shambles".

Most of the ctiticism of the new bin collection scheme in Wokingham seems by the council and by Conservative councillors to have been dismissed under a variety of headings. It’s to be expected. Nobody likes change. It’s down to misinformation by the press/opposition. Or my personal favourite, in reference to my own criticism and Labour Party membership/candidacy, “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”.

But whilst the council have so far been able to shrug off the criticisms of residents by characterising them as not representative (we’ll see if May 3rd’s elections change that view), they may find some of the newer criticisms a little harder to ignore.

The Wokingham Times website this morning features an article collating complaints about the new scheme, under which residents are limited to 80 bags per year and have to pay the council over the odds for extras if needed. The complaint that stands out the most for me comes from a Mr Brian Willis, the former Conservative mayor of Wokingham Without parish council. I’ll quote here what he told the Times:

What a shambles Wokingham Borough Council is in over the new blue bag and green waste collections. I tried to contact Wokingham Borough Council on a totally unrelated matter which was to pay garage rent, but the online system would not accept my input data. I then tried to contact the relevant department – all lines busy or if you get through you are number 24 on the list. After three attempts so I give up and then resorted to a fax, but still no-one replies. Why the council did not set up a temporary line to deal with all waste queries and leave the main number for everyday problems I do not know, but it seems that everything that our council does is ill thought out and finishes up a total disaster.

That would be pretty damning from a resident, I think. From a former Tory councillor, it’s disasterous. And it echoes some of the self-same criticisms I have raised time and again: that the whole scheme is in disarray, and was not properly thought out from the start, and that their communication is not up to scratch.

Maybe the council will listen to this a bit more readily when it comes from one of their own, but given their arrogant attitude so far I doubt it. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Red Ken’s book, and get this printed on a banner to hang opposite the civic offices at Shute End.

Voice of the People

The poll that Wokingham Borough Council are trying to ignore.

I sometimes think that the brilliant staff of The Wokingham Times are enjoying the whole Wokingham bin bags fiasco a bit too much!

But this poll, grabbed from their homepage this morning shows a pretty damning statement of public opinion on the matter. The truth is that “shambles” is a pretty generous description of what’s been going on the last few weeks.

The scheme has been dogged with execution problems, which has only exacerbated public distaste for an already unpopular scheme. Residents resent a stealth tax on a service which was previously included within their council tax. Which, I feel is understandable.

And even more than that, they resent their elected councillors making an absolute pig’s ear of the execution- failing to inform residents satisfactorily beforehand, then simply leaving bags on doorsteps to be stolen, handing out incorrectly-sized bags, and failing to increase the recycling range to give a workable alternative to landfill waste- and then going into hiding when people get annoyed.

I hope that the council will start listening to their voters, but I sincerely doubt it. I fear that the only option left to Wokingham residents will be to register their displeasure in the local elections on May 3rd.

UPDATE: Somehow I missed this earlier, but apparently Wokingham Borough Council are doing a Q&A on the waste collection scheme this evening. I’ll be out (1st Twyford cubs are hitting the climbing wall tonight), but I’ve submitted a question. I asked:

Why can extra blue bin bags not be collected from libraries and council offices, like green waste bags? Given that 18p of the 40p charge per bag is for “delivery” costs, this would save almost half of the price and make them more affordable to residents.

That question has apparently been “submitted for review”. I have no idea if it will be selected, or even answered, and honestly it worries me that they’ve put a filter on this, as it sounds like an easy way to frame the debate to their own terms. And the only question so far asked is a planted question if ever I’ve seen one. But we’ll see. In the meantime, I invite concerned residents to submit their questions to the council. You never know, you might get an answer.

100 Days

If all goes to plan, the next 100 days will see the return of Matthew S. Dent, Labour candidate for Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe (probably with a new candidate photo...)

Thanks to someone on Twitter, for drawing my attention to the fact that we’re now less than 100 days from the 2012 local elections, on May 3rd. It’s nothing official yet, but I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m hoping to run again in Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe. My last run at the by-election was an amazing experience and gave me a whole new outlook on politics.

In the interim between then and now, I’ve gotten much more involved in politics on a local level. I have clear expectations for what will meet me on the doorstep, and an understanding of what a successful candidate will and won’t be able to do. The EU, the national economy and bankers’ bonuses (am I the only one who thinks that plural should be bonii?) are bound to be emotive issues, but are largely beyond the ambit of a local councillor.

That’s not to say they shouldn’t be engaged with, or that I won’t. Thursday’s meeting of Maidenhead CLP saw a very lively and involved discussion of what needs doing to fix the economy, and amid the competing ideas the one consistent strain was that the government’s approach was making things worse, not better (hurting, but not working).

Local elections in May will be taking place across Wokingham, and I expect to be travelling far and wide across the borough to support candidates in other wards (including the excellent Greg Bello over at Bulmershe & Whitegates).

Many of the issues elsewhere in the however, don’t really apply to the northern parishes. For example, the Wokingham town centre regeneration and the utter mess that has been made regarding public toilets in Woodley is of only tangential interest to Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe residents. Instead, they have their own worries. I expect the dominant issues in my own campaign to be:

  • The library: the issue that initially brought me into the July by-election and local politics is still going, and the war of words between myself and Conservative councillors in the local press has only hardened my opposition. The announcement of the tender process results should be made in May, so I expect the Tories will be looking to brush this under the carpet. I don’t plan to let them.
  • Waste disposal: one of the Tories’ pet issues nationally, locally Wokingham are retaining a weekly collection service, but are introducing limitations on how much waste will be collected, as well as a £60 opt-in scheme for garden waste. Expect a fuller analysis nearer to the polling day, but with household budgets already stretched, I’m not convinced residents will welcome the extra concerns.
  • Local democracy: this is something I’ve been banging on about to anyone who will listen. There is no political plurality in Wokingham, only utter dominance by the Conservative Party. As I discovered when I attended a council meeting in November, the executive makes the decisions between themselves, and the legions of backbench Conservative councillors are used to rubber stamp it through. They have no fear of facing electoral consequences of their actions, so the result is a disconnect between residents and representatives; as clearly demonstrated by the refusal to pre-publish the budget, which feeds down into a whole council operation which the people feel they have no stake in.

These are only the issues that jump out at me as the biggest at the moment. There will be countless others, and I fully intend to address and discuss those as they arise. But there is certainly fertile soil for local political debate, which I hope to be able to use against the Tories’ “Here we are, vote for us again please!” approach.